July 31, 2015
One in five
American adults have at least one kind of disability, according to
a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The study, drawn
from 2013 data, says 53 million Americans have a disability.
disability types and related challenges can vary,” said Elizabeth
Courtney-Long, a health scientist with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects
and Developmental Disabilities. “In order to understand and address their
needs, we need to understand their diverse circumstances. This report provides
a snapshot into that.”
The findings come
days after the 25th anniversary of the implementation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, which prohibits the discrimination of someone because
of his or her disability in the workplace, transportation and community.
defined a disability as a self-reported difficulty in one or more of five
areas: vision, cognition, mobility, self-care or independent living. For people
to have one or several of these disabilities, the study says they have to
identify with the specific qualifications the researchers defined in questions.
The study defines
a disability with vision as blindness or difficulty in seeing with glasses
on. A disability for the cognition category means having a hard time with
memory or making decisions due to a physical, mental or condition. For
mobility, a disability entails having difficulty while climbing stairs. A
self-care category means needing help dressing or bathing, and
an independent living disability was defined as needing help to run
The study is
also the first state-by-state analysis of Americans with disabilities from CDC.
The report found Southern states often had higher percentages of people with
disabilities. For example, in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, 31.5%, 31.4%
and 31.4%, respectively, of the state adult population has a disability.
are also more likely to have chronic diseases, including heart disease and
The percentage of
Americans in Midwestern and Northern states were nearly half those from
Southern states. In Minnesota and Alaska, 16.4% and 17.7% of state residents,
respectively, reported a disability.
The report also
found adults who have lower education levels, lower income or are unemployed
were more likely to have a disability. Broken down by race, the study revealed
African American and Hispanic Americans were more likely to have a disability
than white Americans.
president of the National Organization on Disability, a non-profit dedicated to
the disabled community in the U.S., told USA TODAY the findings should be
viewed to see how disability affects income and unemployment levels.
research has found that 20% of people with disabilities have a job, while 69%
of people without disabilities are employed. However, younger Americans with
disabilities have nearly the same access to education as children without
disabilities, Glazer said. Glazer is optimistic that more educated and
disabled individuals will lead to more employment among the disabled community.
education goes, employment will follow," she said.
The CDC partners
with several national and state disabilities programs, including the Special
Olympics Healthy Athletes program and the National Center on Health, Physical
Activity and Disability, among others.
co-author on the CDC report, said she believes the report will allow
public health officials to understand the prevalence of Americans with
The Americans with
Disabilities Act, which President George H.W. Bush signed into law on July
26, 1990, opened doors to people with disabilities to enter the workforce
without discrimination and creation of more accessible locations and
discrimination and ensuring opportunity, the ADA has opened doors and brought
dreams within reach,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an anniversary
event on July 23. “It has made our workforce stronger and our society more
inclusive. And it has enhanced our nation’s understanding and recognition of
all that Americans with disabilities can achieve when they are given more and
nothing less than an opportunity to contribute on equal terms.”
The findings also
come during the Special Olympics World Games held in Los Angeles.
About 6,500 athletes from 165 countries gathered this year for the event,
which has occurred since 1968. Individuals with intellectual disabilities
participate in the Games each year.
“My husband and I
have seen Americans unite in so many ways across the country,” said first lady
Michelle Obama at the Opening Ceremony on July 25. “These Games are a perfect
reflection of that unity. They show us that we’re all in this together – that
we can lift up our friends and neighbors, and that we can bring out the best in
each other to reach even higher heights.”